Monday, July 24, 2017

Dunkirk Air Tasking Order


ATO A: USCINCCHANT UNCLAS EXER/ //
MSGID/AIR TASKING ORDER #1(G.I.)//AOC//
PERID/201707240000Z/TO:2017072359Z//
AIRTASK/ATO A//
TASKUNIT/JUVAT (AIR PIRATE)//
MSNDAT/AF003/-/juvat/1XF150/AIR SUPERIORITY (OF COURSE)/15M/A1/-/31511-//
TGTLOC/FRITZTOWN CINEMA//
AMPN/A.  OBSERVE AND EVALUATE BOTH FRIENDLY AND ENEMY AIR ACTIVITY VIC DUNKIRK.  AS THIS MISSION WILL REQUIRE TIME TRAVEL, DO NOT ENGAGE ENEMY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.  OUR LAST SORTIE OF THIS TYPE (OPERATION PRAIRIE ADVENTURE) WITH CVN68, ALMOST CAUSED A TEMPORAL RIFT FOREVER ALTERING THE TIME LINE.  WE WON WWII WITHOUT ANY INTERFERENCE, DO NOT ENGAGE NO MATTER HOW EFFECTIVE AN F-15 WOULD BE AGAINST FOKKERS AND MESSERSCHMITS AND FOKKERS FLYING MESSERSCHMITS.

B. REPORT OBSERVATIONS AND EVALUATIONS TO THIS HQ NLT 201707241100Z.//

Given the above tasking from USCincChant, callsign Sarge, I entered the target area at precisely  201707221850Z (1350 local.  All right! 1:50PM Saturday! Sheesh, a guy can't wander around dreaming of his Glory Days?)

The mission, as assigned, was to evaluate the "flying sequences" for accuracy.  The short version is they were pretty good with a couple of  "nice touches" that few would have noticed had they been omitted, but that showed RJ Casey, the Aerial Safety Coordinator/Military Advisor, knew what he was about.

Before I get into the specifics of the above mission, first let me say, I went to a theater, by choice, by myself, at almost 2 O'Clock on a Saturday.

Talk about Decadence!

It was exhilarating!  I compounded the Decadence by consuming an ice cold Shiner Bock while watching the movie evaluating the tactics.

Also, let me say this, Yes, my precious snowflake, whomever you are, there are no "people of color" or women in any significant role in the movie.  There is the possibility that French Senaglese troops were there, but the French forces played little role in the movie either.  Similarly, for injured troops being rescued, the female nurses were singularly important to them personally, but again played little role in this story.

Get over it.  The solar system revolves around the Sun, not Uranus!

So, back to the tasking.

Stuka scenes.
Source

Given that there are only two intact Stukas left in the world and neither are flyable, their scenes were done with radio controlled aircraft.  That having been said, I had to google that info before I realized that the movie used radio controlled models for their scenes, they were that well done.

However, the smaller size of the R/C aircraft as well as sheer physics of cameras led to a historical error.  According to Hans Rudel in his book "Stuka Pilot" standard Stuka tactics would involve approaching the target at 15000', then push over or roll and pull into an 80o dive.  
Source

With a dive this steep accuracy is greatly enhanced.   (If I've done the math right, you've traveled about 2350' forward from 15000' until the release point. Compared to a little over 6000' for the usual 30o dive used back in my day.)

So, putting an actual Stuka (with a 45' wingspan) at altitude to give the picture historical accuracy would have meant filming an object only slightly bigger than the size of this period.

Another factor was the extreme stress on the aircraft in the recovery from the dive.  Because of this, the actual Stuka required a dive checklist to be completed before the attack began.  That checklist looked like this:

✔ Landing flaps at cruise position
✔ Elevator at cruise position
✔ Rudder trip at cruise position
✔ Contact altimeter ON
✔ Contact altimeter set to release altitude
✔ Supercharger set at automatic
✔ Throttle fully closed
✔ Cooler flaps closed
✔ Dive brakes open


All that would have been difficult to achieve in an R/C aircraft.

So, the dive angles weren't quite right.

The second quibble about the Stukas was there were 5 explosions during the attack on the beach.  True Stukas carried 5 bombs (1 x 250kg +4 x 50kg), but they would have been released in pairs from the wings.  The reason the bombs would have been released in pairs is that releasing them singly would have induced a differential in lift and drag on the two wings, inducing a lateral motion of some sort, thereby reducing accuracy.

However, even though the Stukas were in a lower angle dive than was historically accurate, and as mentioned above, the horizontal distance across the ground was increased, the string of bomb explosions was accurate in that there were a long string of separate explosions.

So, Stuka tactics in the movie were not exactly historically accurate, but aerodynamically accurate and would reflect modern air to ground tactics.

ME-109 Tactics

Again, a certain amount of tactical accuracy had to be sacrificed simply to film the movie.  Air to Air action, even in WWII (heck, even in WWI) involves a lot of space, both horizontally and vertically.  So getting all the players into one camera scene means the formations and the maneuvering has to be tighter and smaller than would be the case 
in reality.

That having been said, the escort formation on the Heinkel was correct.  The Messerschmits (with their Fokkers in them) were above and behind the bomber positioning themselves in between the bomber and the most probable avenue of attack.
Wider spread, Excellent post describing the how and why of the formation at the source.

There formation was accurate for Luftwaffe formations at the time.  The wingman was positioned far enough away  from his lead to protect his six as well as to keep a lookout.

The defensive jinking of the ME-109s was far more accurately portrayed than that of the Spitfires.  He was changing all three planes as he jinked, vastly improving his chances of survival.  But, let's be honest.  If someone shows up at your six and the first time you see him is when he opens fire, your chances of survival, or at least returning the aircraft to maintenance undamaged are next to non-existent. So any improvement to those chances is a vast one.

So, the realism of the ME-109 scenes was accurate within the confines of camera physics.

Spitfire Tactics

Initially, I thought the Spitfire scenes were the least accurate in the film.  Then I realized that, in fact, they were the MOST accurate.  The Luftwaffe had cut their teeth in the Spanish Civil War and learned what formations and tactics had worked and, more importantly, what had not.

The RAF however had not had that advantage, and entered WWII with only lessons learned from the First War.  They would learn fast, and indeed, according to this post, shot down 326 Luftwaffe aircraft to the loss of 121 of their own during the extraction.

One of those lessons was shown in the first scene of the Spitfires.  They're flying in what was referred to as the VIC  formation, and the intent was to concentrate all three aircraft's weapons on a single target.  The two wingman fly fingertip formation on each wing of the leaders apparently having no other responsibilities other than to be gun bearers.  That's about all they CAN do since, having flown fingertip a time or two in my day, I'm here to tell you that the wingman's attention is 98% consumed with flying formation.  He can only spare a quick glance at a fuel gauge or a radio channel change.






Vic Formation
Source



Visual lookout is non-existent in this formation.

Yet, it was the standard combat formation for the RAF up til someone recognized the error of their ways during the Battle of Britain and the RAF adapted a version of the Luftwaffe spread formation for the rest of the war.

Similarly, at no point in the movie, except when they were actually under fire, did I see a Spitfire pilot actively "Checking Six".

I think I actually said "Move the aircraft and check six" out loud as, during one scene, a Spitfire watched his target slowly crash into the sea.  Sure enough, everyone else in the audience jumped in their seat as the bullets started flying around him.  I think I mumbled something along the lines of "Tolja, ya dumb SOB"

But, that is an entirely accurate situation. At that moment in time, the Spit pilot was master of the universe and invincible.  I understand the feeling but it was hammered into me, in F-15 school, that the second most dangerous place to be in an Air to Air engagement is in the general vicinity of your victim.  The first being, of course, in the cockpit of your victim.

Move the aircraft, and check six.  "Bastards have brothers!"

One of the things that I did find very accurate was the gun shots.  Neither Spitfire pilot pulled the trigger (yes, the Spit didn't have a trigger, it had a firing button, I know) when he had enough lead.  Just like any shot taken on a moving target, you don't aim where he is, you aim where he will be when the bullets arrive.

The pilots pushed the button (OK?) when the pipper was on the target.  That is correct nowadays with lead computing sights that account for time of flight, but that wasn't the case back then.  However....the movie correctly portrayed the shots taken with that aimpoint as misses.

I did notice that during those engagements, my legs tensed up, my breath started coming in little gasps, my head would lean in the direction of the turn and my right arm would be moving also.  It was a good thing it was a matinee, dark, and there wasn't anybody within about 10 feet of me.

I also noticed one of those little "bon mots" I spoke of earlier.  In the first fight scene, as the leader spots the ME-109s.  He calls them out and then says "Feet up on the bar, boys".  That is a little known and totally accurate thing about the Spitfire.  It's rudder pedals had an upper level to them.  When about to engage in high G maneuvering combat, Spit pilots would put their feet on the upper level, to reduce the amount of blood pooling in their legs which improved G tolerance by keeping more blood (AKA Oxygen) in the brain.


Source

Since that was in one of the initial scenes, it was one of my first indications that this was going to be a good movie.  I was not disappointed, and I highly recommend it.

To be honest, the credits hadn't even started rolling when I texted Sarge "Great Fricking Movie!"



64 comments:

  1. Learned more in this post than all the autobiographies from Johnson, Rudel, Sakai, et al that I read back in school. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, considering the history and skills of those guys, that's quite a compliment!

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  2. I had no ideer those Stukas were R/C models. Very well done and what a great idea!

    During the flying sequences, I too have an imaginary stick and rudder pedals. Great post Juvat, thanks!

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    1. Thanks. Yeah, the first thing I started googling was where the flying Stukas were from so I could steal a picture of them. Found the site cited (see what I did there?) stating two only in existence then as I was checking IMDB for military advisor name, noticed the R/C credits. I thought they were real airplanes up until that point.

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  3. A very well written evaluation Juvat, learned a lot I did!! But I must say, I didn't appreciate you making me squirt coffee through my nose with the following statement - "Get over it. The solar system revolves around the Sun, not Uranus!"

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    1. Well, Sarge did mention he wanted a new monitor, but The Missus wouldn't authorize the purchase of a new one while the old was still functioning. So, it appears my shot struck the wrong target. My apologies.

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    2. It's all good. I was sitting on my deck drinking my coffee and enjoying the sunrise while reading this on my phone. Mostly just decorated my shirt and the cat who was sitting on my lap.

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    3. Hopefully the claw marks left by the rapidly accelerating cat didn't come too near anything important like...an artery!

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  4. So why the closed canopy while ditching?

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    1. I wondered that myself. As best I can determine it is to make sure it doesn't slam shut on impact, increasing the odds of it getting jammed. On a side note, every jet I flew in had a heavy bladed tool fastened to the canopy rail solely for the purpose of breaking through the glass if needed. I got to thinking about that as the water reached the guy's nose.

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    2. I wondered about that, as I thought it was SOP to ditch with the canopy open to preclude the risk of the airframe torqueing and jamming it shut. Back in the day, wasn't it USN practice to land and take off from CVs with the canopies open for that very reason?

      I didn't like the Spit pilot landing on the beach, miles from the beachhead. That was asking for just what the movie showed.

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    3. That would seem to make sense (having the canopy open), and it may have just been done in the movie to increase the drama. Most of the Pics I've seen of prop planes taking off the carriers had the canopy open.

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    4. Now that I had a bit of time to peruse google results for "Spitfire closed canopy on ditching", it appears you were right. The canopy should have been opened. One result of a recently discovered ditched Spit surmised that the pilot was either dead or unconscious on hitting the water as "the canopy was closed".
      So, I'm going to go with my second thesis. Higher level of drama.

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  5. Great post Juvat!

    I nearly sprayed coffee reading the ATO, but avoided it. I let my guard down and figuratively flew straight and level until I was jumped by a USSPACECORPSE Fokker out of Uranus. That did it.

    I remember reading Bob Tuck's book and being scandalized that the flags insisted on keeping to the vic formation. Thanks god that kind of thing never happens in modern times (sarc).

    Extremely cool that they were willing to pay attention to detail in this film and not cgi the whole thing.

    I may have to see this one.

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    1. Thanks Shaun. I wrote it specifically for you and Sarge. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  6. Juvat, we were watching the movie together separately. Appreciate the critique of the aviation portion. I was flying your wing during those scenes as I too was moving my head left and right and pushing the button.

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    1. I thought I felt the presence of a wingman about that time!

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  7. I miss seeing zulu time being written out in the long form... and seeing the zulu clock.
    Just think, if the entire world adopted zulu time we could scrap daylight time and the lunacy of messing with clocks twice each year.
    Also, there'd be no need to mess with clocks when moving east or west over great distsnce.

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    1. That WOULD be interesting. But someone would undoubtedly claim that we were being ray's sis by forcing the whole world to adopt to English time.

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  8. Had a full weekend bus-driving my kids to Comic-Con so I didn't get a chance to see it, now I feel I'm late to the party. I think I have a free weeknight this week so we'll see (pun intended). FOKKERS FLYING MESSERSCHMITS! Great joke.

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  9. Nice write up indeed. I need to make some time to go watch it.

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  10. Thank you for a most excellent post/movie review.

    The editor in me forces one small quibble: "There formation was accurate..." Perhaps you meant " Their "? Well, no doubt you were in a high g maneuver and checking six at the time you wrote that sentence, yes that explains it.

    Feel free to correct any errors that I have made and write anything else that comes to mind.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Yeah, I noticed that this morning. DoH!

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    2. Every time I put out an issue of the magazine ' Military ', we had at least four people proofreading the galleys before it went to the printer. There was never an issue printed under my editorship that didn't contain errors. Stuff happens. Thanks for not being upset at my self-righteousness.

      Paul

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  11. Sure would like one of those 90% Mk26s. Also, it was neat that it was shot on film.

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    1. I think most of us here would like one. Unfortunately, want and "gonna have" are, as usual, two different things. In my case at least.

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    2. Just under $3.3 million for a rebuilt Spit. $2.1 million for a Hurricane might be more affordable.

      In my dreams. Crap, I remember when P-40s were almost a drug on the market.

      So.... win the lottery, which is what'll take to be able to afford time in a dual one. Then lose the weight necessary to get down to 190lbs fully-clothed for the rear seat.

      Sounds like a plan.

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    3. Now you're starting to sound like my cardiologist! ;-)

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    4. Cardiologists and chest-cutters are about the only people who make an honest living who can afford those toys.

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  12. Went to a movie last week, now I have to go again. I can't get used to having a beer in a movie though. Your leadership in this area will help overcome my fears. Not Shiner however.

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    1. Proud to serve. I thought the same thing Vis a Vis Shiner the first time I had one on a TDY to San Antone in 97. Either they've gotten a lot better in the last 20 years or my taste buds are shot. I'd give even odds on either of those choices, but it was pretty tasty with a small ($4.95) bag of popcorn.

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  13. I don't know why you're dissing the R/C aircraft. Those Royal Canadians were doing the best they could!

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    1. Oh, now THAT'S funny! Well done!

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  14. Have not yet seen the movie. However, the wife and I were recently introduced to this fine establishment--

    https://www.hpb.com/home

    --where I found (among others) this book--

    https://www.amazon.com/Flying-American-Combat-Aircraft-World-ebook/dp/B00BOT61DQ/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500928279&sr=8-9&keywords=american+combat+aircraft

    One of the articles details a mock dogfight between a P51 Mustang and a Spitfire. It took place in the late winter of 1943 in the 15th Air Force (Mediterranean Theater). The first P51B's were arriving to replace the Spitfire Mk XIII's and Mk IX's. I don't believe these Mk Spits were in service yet at the time of Dunkirk. The actual 'fight' was between a P51B and a Mk IX.
    Short version---both pilots concurred that the Spit had the advantage in a dogfight. It could out accelerate, out climb, and out turn the Mustang. However, the Mustang could out dive and out run the Spit. Obviously where the Mustang really out stripped the Spit was range. Spitfire mission duration was about two hours. Mustangs routinely lasted seven plus. The Spitfire was designed as an Interceptor. The Mustang was designed as an Escort.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation. The Flying American Combat Aircraft e-book is now on my kindle. Finished the first guy's talking about flying the P-40. He's getting ready to transition to the Spit. Should be entertaining.

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    2. RHT447, the early spitfires (MkI thru V, IIRC) had a single stage supercharger which limited their performance at altitude. The MkIX Spit had a two stage supercharger as did all RR engined Mustangs so in terms of power the MkIX and P51B would have been equal. The Spitfire was designed as an interceptor based on a racing floatplane, (search for "Supermarine Schneider Cup") so endurance was always a problem.

      Regarding the Vic formation of the RAF it was originally a defensive formation for two seaters. If you find this book, grab it.

      https://www.amazon.ca/Brief-History-Royal-Flying-Corps/dp/1841194700

      It explains how the pilots of the RFC had to invent photo reconnaissance, artillery direction, dogfighting and close air support.

      The two most dangerous jobs for the the RFC were artillery spotting and photo reconnaissance. The radio transmitter was so bulky and heavy that the pilot flew alone and his workload was excessive - he had to handle the radio, observe the shell impact, tap out his corrections to the artillery in morse code and fly the plane. Photo reconnaissance also had a heavy workload, the pilot had to fly a straight course at a fixed altitude while the observer had to take glass plates out of their sealed box and place them into a camera affixed to the side of the fuselage in the slipstream, open the shutter for so many seconds, close the shutter, remove and stow the plate, repeat until all the plates were exposed. It was very easy for Fokkers to sneak up and pounce as the single pilot and the observer could not perform their mission and keep watch. As a protective measure, two squadron mates would fly in formation behind each wing of the mission aircraft. The observers in the trailing aircraft had only one task, to watch the sky. If enemy fighters approached the observer would shoot a burst from his machine gun that the other pilots had to be close enough to hear. The artillery spotting pilot had no observer to man a rear gun and he was in a slow two-seater so he was a lame duck if he was separated from his escort so a tight vic was required.

      Also there was the strange idea the RAF had in the late '30s about the 'heavy bomber destroyer' fighter. The Paul Boulton Defiant was a two seat fighter with a gunner in a rear mounted four gun turret and (BRACE YOURSELF, JUVAT) no forward firing guns for the pilot to shoot. In a vic formation with three gunners watching the sky it was hard to surprise it but in combat against ME109s they were slaughtered.

      http://spitfiresite.com/2010/07/battle-of-britain-1940-boulton-paul-defiant.html

      Al_in_Ottawa

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    3. I noticed as I was researching last weeks post that Col Carruther's mission was escorted by YB-17s. Which was the USAAF's version of the Defiant. The only reference I'd heard of that aircraft was in a semi-Fiction novel I'd bought in the early '80s entitled "Fighter Pilots" by Kelly Rollins. May have to post on both someday (I believe Sarge ROE requires a "POCIR" after that type statement.)

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    4. Al--thanks for all the historical details. Always enjoy learning new stuff.

      juvat--here's a wiki link to the YB-40 gunship. In a nutshell, just too flippin' heavy.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_YB-40_Flying_Fortress

      I read a story where a group of B17's was coming off the target when one in the middle formation was hit by flack and set on fire. Because the ship could explode, the squadron formation scattered. On one of those other ships, a crew member later recalled that their pilot stood their plane on it's nose and dove for the deck from 22,000 ft. They headed for home on the deck alone, knowing that German fighters would be looking to pick off stragglers, but at least they couldn't attack from below. However, they weren't a "straggler". Everything on the plane was working fine, and no one was injured. They also had no bomb load. So, when the fighters did attack, the gunners called them out, and the pilot maneuvered to throw off their aim while at the same time bringing as many guns to bear as possible. They were attacked several times, but made it home. Their plane had more bullet holes, but everything still worked, and no one was injured. The bombardier/nose gunner was confirmed to have shot down five enemy aircraft and became and ace in a day.

      Here's another one that not many know about--

      https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=1757

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    5. Interesting, I'll look into both of those.

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    6. 14 July 1943 – attacked Luftwaffe air depot at Villacoublay. In this raid, five YB-40s were dispatched.

      We know what happened on that sortie.

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    7. Here is another book I forgot to mention. It is the best observation and description of the human side and the stress of air combat in the 8th Air Force that I have read so far.

      https://www.amazon.com/Serenade-Big-Bird-Fliers-Uncommon/dp/1505606462/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501000758&sr=1-2&keywords=b17

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    8. My kindle habit is getting expensive.

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    9. No doubt. Before long, I will have to allow myself to be dragged kicking and screaming into the current century. Or at least bribed. I do have a fondness for dead tree stuff along with the satisfaction of knowing I can read it with a candle. That said, the expense of Kindle along with the space savings sure beats the hell out of adding a library wing to our house (although that would be really cool). We actually have this print hanging in our house--

      https://artthatmakesyoulaugh.com/workszoom/2061916

      Check out his other galleries while you're there.

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    10. Dang! Now you're going to get me started buying art.

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  15. Nice AAR, I'll add it to the to be viewed list.
    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed.

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  16. Thanks for the fine review. It's always better to have an expert of the genre explain what happened, why it happened, and what should have happened. Guess OAFS now owes you some TDY funds for the trip to the cinema and procured meal. regards, Alemaster

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    1. Yeah....Right! Mama's still waitin' on new shoes from the last comment rich post I had.

      IAS, (new acronym In All Seriousness), Thanks.

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    2. IAS has been added to the acronym page. I have also coined a new phrase, Juvatism, as in "IAS? That's a Juvatism."

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    3. And then you used it in your next post. I am honored!

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  17. The only couple of observations my buddies and I had are so typical, that perhaps they don't deserve mentioning. However, do you guys think Farner's (Tom Hardy's) Spitfire must have had about 5000 rounds of .303 in the wings?


    SPOILER ALERT: It also must have had a glide ratio of about 500:1 too.

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    1. Absolutely. (On both). And given that (as best I can recall) the highest altitude they said they were at was 2500 and I think that was feet, he wasn't actually going to glide very far. But......Hollywooooood! (To quote a line from 1941)

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    2. Except that he was probably going a bit faster than best glide speed and he could trade off speed for distance.

      To apply WWI standards, choosing to land behind enemy lines rather than ditching (or bailing out over the beachhead) could have gotten him shot for "lack of moral fibre".

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    3. True, to both. Not sure why he didn't bailout, unless he didn't have enough altitude at that point. Having a 0/0 seat would have come in handy about then.

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  18. Here's something that goes right along with all that's going on here -
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV5kvFPheP8

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    1. Think I've got a new YouTube Channel to watch. Thanks Dave.

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  19. One thing I noticed while watching "Dunkirk" was that British ships sink FAST.


    Daryle

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)